Friday, July 31, 2015

World War Z

I was somewhat hesitant when my sister handed me (a Finnish translation of) World War Z to read as I recalled the movie being rather dull. Usually the book is better than the movie made from it but just how much better it could be this time. However, she assured me that the novel has little to do with the movie. And that indeed turned out to be the case.

In English, the novel is subtitled An Oral History of the Zombie War. And that already gives a clue that it might not have the exact same story as the movie starred by Brad Pitt. Instead, the book is a report to the UN after the zombie war in the form of a collection of interviews with people all over the world. A movie with such a format probably would not have worked at all. The novel on the other hand, was quite a pleasant read – maybe even surprisingly so.

The interviews are cut into parts and divided between the book's chapters so that they describe the events of the war in a chronological order. It actually took me awhile to realize the book was visiting the same characters but I think it did not really matter. It was reasonably effortless to follow.

How the zombie virus works is not explained much in the book. Perhaps The Zombie Survival Guide, that preceded this one, shed more light on it. Regardless, I found it very implausible how the zombies survive so long and even get up after being frozen over a winter. But maybe that was not Max Brook's main concern. (Or it could just be me.)

The main interest of the book is its social commentary. Different countries handle and fight the zombies in their own ways, being more or less successful at it. And the war affects them in different ways. For instance, China ends up embracing democracy while Russia abandons it becoming a theocracy, the Holy Russian Empire.

The United States are touched with the most detail in the novel. Maybe the most intriguing aspect in that for me was how the US military handled the situation. Or rather, how they first failed badly at countering the zombies in a rather odd "show match". I mean, how likely it actually would be for the army to come ill-prepared for such a fight. And apparently top tier modern weaponry does not work well against an enemy that is stopped only by having its brains destroyed.

One point the book makes is how a nation can never completely devote to a war. The percentage can be high but there are always people who cannot take part in the fighting for many reasons. The zombies however have no such limitations. Their only purpose is to find something to kill. They have no need to rest nor do getting wounded stop them. And that is one of the reasons fighting them proved to be so difficult.

The Finnish translation was fine as usually is the case when a book has no odd, made-up fantasy vocabulary. Although some of the military slang used made me wonder what the English counterparts were.

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